Going home, twice

Even when you’re sure you don’t want to fold yourself into an airplane to burn some additional fossil fuels, apparently you can find yourself back home in Europe before you know it. What followed was an action-packed rollercoaster of sleeplessness. Oh jet-lag, how I’ve missed you!

Being back in the Netherlands felt very weird for the first 30 minutes. But with my OV-chipknip still activated, the transition was quite seamless. Although I did notice the people were taller than I’m used to. I might have even felt short here and there…. And also, cycling on actual bicycle lanes, with loads of other cyclists, and motorists who behave. Such a delight! But my fears of annoyed people everywhere, getting angry about the smallest of things was quite mistaken. Queenslanders might be known to be very relaxed, but the Dutch aren’t so bad either ;).

Work was non-stop chatting with colleagues, catching up on all things work you don’t hear about via email (pro-tip: that’s a lot). Family and friends time was filled with hugs, chatting, musea, Vegetarian Butcher nomnoms and Christmas dinner. And birthdays, both belated birthday presents as well as an actual birthday cake. And sewing, there’s always time for sewing :).

After a wonderful two weeks, the plane back to Brizzy felt like a trip back home as well. I made it back just in time for the New Years Eve fireworks and the sweltering summer heat. And also the reunion with Jaap wasn’t too bad :). There’s no place like home, I’m fortunate enough to count two places as my home.

Below follows a recap in pictures. A picture says more than a thousand words. so a lot of pictures tell a long story. You’d better get comfortable first :). #LookBeforeYouLeap #BezintEerGijBegint

 

The central thread of the trip was the TimTam challenge. This typical Australian treat should be used briefly as a tea-straw, making the inside a delicious warm chocolatety goo, which will be a party in your mouth. People were skeptical at first, but try they all did. Afterwards all but one were convinced this is truly the best way to eat a TimTam.

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End of the year means performances by both niece and nephew and a dance class of sis where I could join in. Funfun.

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Enjoying the nomnoms from the Vegetarian Butcher while I can!

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Teylers museum, the oldest museum of the Netherlands located in Haarlem, got visited twice. Once on the day they were expecting the 100.000th visitor and once for a tour in the library together with the in-laws.

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Mum took me to the very impressive Feathers exhibition in Volkenkundig museum in Leiden. So much I did now know about the traditions of feathers, and the cultures who use them to signal position and status. To know about the past, puts current day haute couture in a different light.

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This year I could join the office Christmas Carolers, without being able to participate in any of the rehearsals. Good thing I remembered most songs from previous years :). The only disappointing bit was that in my absence they removed the hand gestures and little dance moves. That didn’t stop me from having some fun though! #WhereIsTheParty? #HereIsTheParty! #DontJustLookAtYourPaper

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I spent most of my time in Haarlem and Delft, but couldn’t resist checking out our neighborhood in The Hague, and to admire the new metro station at Den Haag Centraal.

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Birthday time. Some present where seriously overdue, others where exactly on time.

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The birthday girl wanted to visit the Store Wars exhibition in Hoorn, good for some old fashioned fun.

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The two fish of the family enjoyed a morning in the pool

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And the rest of the time was filled with family and friends. And of course lots of food and matching beanies.

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Australia as you’d imagine it

When talking about our Australian adventure, non-Australian people tend to respond with some envy and tell us how they would love to live in Australia for a while and what a great country it is. I frequently get the sense that when this happens, two things are conveniently forgotten: #1 – Australia is mindbogglingly huge and, as a result, most of it is about as far away as any typical holiday destination in Europe would be. #2 – we’re not actually on an extended holiday here, so most of the time, Australia is just a strange country with a strange culture in which we work and have our daily lives; not the wonderful beach, diving, outback and jungle experience that the word ‘Australia’ evokes in people’s minds.

However, recently we treated ourselves to a bit of exactly that and chose to ignore the distance for a bit. We headed out to the west coast, through Perth and up to Exmouth for a diving and snorkeling trip that turned out so much better than we’d hoped for. And hopes were high, because we weren’t going out there alone. My sister Trudy and her husband Eric were along for the ride – for them, this was the final leg of a long trip that took them up the east coast, including the Great Barrier Reef and this was to be the grand finale.

The Ningaloo Reef is an amazing place. Remote, relatively untouched and fairly close to the West Australia coast. Exmouth is a town of 2,200 people, although at the height of the tourist season, its population will swell to about 6,000. With a few 100 more in Coral Bay, that’s pretty much all the people in an area 200 km long and 50 km wide, with most of the reef just off its coast. Just the flight in offers views of a land that really resonates with that National Geographic stereotype of Australia we’re familiar with.

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We went diving and snorkeling on the Muiron Islands to the north of Exmouth, as well as on the Oyster Stacks to the west and in the Coral Bay, but the absolute highlight of the trip must have been our experience with the humpback whales. This is one of the very few places in the world where you can actually swim with them, something the local diving outfits are trialing for the very first time in West Australia – and we were lucky enough to be on board for a trip that had even the crew jumping for joy at the end of the day. Whales swimming underneath us, next to us and rising to the surface to greet our boat, almost inviting us to swim – we had several opportunities to literally look these wonderful creatures right in the eyes.

After all that, Trudy and Eric left and would soon after return to Europe. Between them and Simone’s parents earlier this year, that was likely the end of family and friends visiting from Europe as well – we’re out here by ourselves and just Australian friends and colleagues for some time now.

Simone and myself weren’t quite done enjoying Ningaloo though – Sail Ningaloo took us on the Shore Thing, a catamaran with a crew of two and up to eight guests. Us and four other guests were taken out onto the Indian Ocean, to parts of the reef that are too far for the day-tripping diving outfits to visit. A diving trip straight out of your dreams, 5 days and nights of every need being taken care of and just great diving on untouched sites with lots of life and variety.

Most days, Australia is just a country, where you need to work, shop for groceries and take care of everyday jobs. But every now and then, we find the time to be reminded why Australia is high on the list of countries people would like to visit. And it can really deliver, if you accept its tremendous size…

16 years togetherness

Selfie time for this old couple in West End.

Last week we renewed the lease on our West End unit and tonight we celebrated the 16th anniversary our first kiss in some of the local establishments. Seems like we’re here to stay a while longer 😉

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I work out

I’m in need of external motivation to work out, so I’ll be counting my buttons in public in this post.

Big button equals 25-30 minutes on the cross trainer at level L, followed by a mini circuit of 3 x B repetitions of weight lifting , with stretching as an active break in between.

Small buttons equals a mini circuit of 3 x S repetitions elbow planking for x seconds, body weight squats and push-ups or  backwards push-ups, with stretching as an active break in between.

2016-08-01/07 – Mon/Wed Canberra Fri/Sun Charrette, aka workworkwork
2016-07-25/31 – Sat boat and jet ski license, Sun Mnt Glorious bike ride
2016-07-18/24
2016-07-18/24 – Thu radio exam, Fri Urban climb + Northbrook gorges, Sat Straddie snorkel
2016-07-11/17 – 3 x Urban climb
2016-07-04/10 – Thu Habitat drinks, Fri whiskey tasting, Sun Cherub dive
2016-06-27/03
2016-06-27/03 – Wed/Thu trip to Sydney
2016-06-20/27 – Botanica gym, pool night, urban climb, mooloolaba reef
2016-06-13/19
2016-06-13/19 (3kg, L10, B10x. S10x, 40s) Visit to Canberra messed up my schedule, but I made it up in the weekend.
2016-06-06/12
2016-06-06/12 (2kg, L9, B10x, S10x. 30s). First full week
2016-05-30/5
2016-05-30/5 (1kg, L8, B10x. S10x. 30s)
DSC_0707
2016-05-23/29 (1kg, L8, B10x, S10x)

6 months

According to some random blog (by the New Zealand government), 6 months in is about the time when you enter the “fright state” and should be preparing for the low moods to come. According to a trusted friend, this is when you enter a limbo state where you’re done settling in in the practical sense, but are still months away from building a network of friends and acquaintances.

I’ll formulate my own opinion on this in a few months time, but for now the 6 month milestone seemed reason for a celebration. So we baked cookies :).

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This weekends rainfall had a much more sensible timing, so we enjoyed a walk in the rain at dusk. When it rains it pours!

I do hope that this concludes the very wet weekends for now. It’s the second weekend in a row we had to cancel our scuba diving plans, while the weekdays remain familiarly sunny. But I guess there are worse things, like damaged houses, flash floods and power outages.

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And then there was one

We came to Oz for me to replace my colleague Alex, but there was a comfortable overlap of almost 6 months. This has now come to an end, as Alex and his family have boarded the plane that will bring them back to Europe. There have been plenty of good-bye-lunches, drinks and barbies this last week, one of the benefits of having multiple offices.

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One of the things I was not looking forward to coming out here was to have no direct colleagues around in the same room, or even the same time zone. I’ve really enjoyed the company of Alex in this starting up period. Always good to have someone to talk shop with and complain to and have fun with. Monday is the start of a new era, where I still have plenty of friendly people around, but will fly solo on all company matters. Hey ho, here we go!

I hope Alex and family have a safe journey back home and find it easy to settle in again. They weren’t looking forward to leaving Brisbane, but are happy to be closer to their family again. Jaap and me both are happy it’s not us yet that are moving back, so I guess we like it here :).

In unrelated news, I’ve been plenty active these last few weeks with some sewing. You can find more details on my sewing blog: purr-purse  and you-say-mens-shirt-i-say-my-shirt/

The photo at the top is to show it’s not -always- sunny in the sunshine state. (By the time I found my way to the roof on this lazy Saturday morning the worst had already passed.) Today we saw quite some rain in South-East Queensland, although from the comfort of our apartment it was less impressive than I had expected. There was enough excitement elsewhere though: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/qld-authorities-happy-with-rain-response-20160604-gpbmmb.html

 

Climb every mountain

If it is true that we do not conquer the mountain, instead we conquer ourselves, then today I have defeated myself… At least it was a worthy opponent :).

My airbnb host Morgan from Melbourne was visiting his parents in Brisbane with his girlfriend and invited me and Jaap to come along for a hike up mount Tibrogargan. Morgan warned me that we would spend most of the time on all fours hugging the mountain, but he assured me we wouldn’t be needing climbing gear like ropes and things. With our bush walking experience in the mountains of Flinders Ranges, I figured we’d be all right. Long story short, I climbed farther than I initially dared, but when my muscles started to twitch involuntary, I decided enough was enough and found my way back down.

So today I learned a thing or two about rock climbing, and I now fully understand the difference between bush walking, rock climbing and mountain climbing. That, and I know fear when I smell it.  I guess we’re not in Holland anymore.

Fortunately, there was a lovely plan B. So while Morgan and girlfriend made their way successfully to the top, Jaap and I found our way to the lovely Victory tea parlor around the corner, where the host got stuck in the fifties, serving tea and cakes in style to all who venture into her garden.

But no worries, I’ll be back. Just give me some time to grow actual muscles. Next time I’ll make it a bit higher up (I hope), but in any case there’ll be cake in the end.

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